Tag Archives: shopping

A Moment of Kindness

23 Dec

Russian cashiers are not known for their amazing customer service skills.  I assume the logic is that if you want to buy milk, you will buy milk; it doesn’t matter if they smile and ask how your day is.  They ask if you need a plastic bag and if you have a store card then they tell you your total and badger you for as close to exact change as possible.  The majority of the time, I get through these interactions with no problem and leave with my groceries.

Tonight, I was at the store and saw something that was on my x-mas list for our family.  The display showed that it was supposedly a great deal, so I went for it.  When the cashier began to ring up my items she asked if I had a card and then broke script, saying something that I couldn’t understand.  I admitted (in Russian) that I didn’t speak Russian and didn’t understand.  She continued speaking and pointing at a card with the discounted prices.  I somehow understood from the gestures and concern that in order to get the discount, I had to have *something.*  Before I could respond, she took a sheet of paper with a barcode, showed it to me and then scanned it.  I said, “спасибо большое,” (“thank you very much”) and she looked at me with a little smile, put her fingers to her lips, and said “shhhhh.”  It was such a conspiratorial moment and such kindness on her part that it shocked me.

I sometimes find it difficult to create meaningful blog posts because so many of the things that affect my daily life here are insignificant by American standards.  Does anyone really want to read about a helpful cashier?  Yet, this made me walk home with a skip in my step and a smile on my face.  I feel like every action here takes more work than I am used to: going outside requires layers-upon-layers of clothing and three doors to unlock and relock; buying groceries means decoding labels, determining which stores carry which items, and figuring out what happened to every single container of milk less than 2.5% (where DID they all go?!); and, buying train tickets means navigating a Russian-language site because the English version does not allow you to purchase tickets and the expat site charges over 40% more.  Given this, the positive experiences, no matter how small, really make a difference.

So, thank you to the nice young woman at the grocery store for helping me out tonight!  Not only did you save me lots of money, but you made me feel like we understood each other without even speaking the same language.

до свидания!

A Grocery Store Challenge

9 Jun

Here is a challenge for all of you. Go to your neighborhood grocery store – just your typical Ralph’s, Albertson’s, Publix, Harris Teeter, etc. – and find a can like this:


Yep, that is “horseflesh stew” (I prefer the Google Translate translation when the words are typed in on separate lines – if typed on one line it changes to “horse meat stew”).  This was taken at the corner grocery where Ben and I shop most often, but they also have it at the store directly across the street from us.  Neither one is a specialty store of any kind.  It is located in the canned meat section with canned tuna, anchovies, calamari, foie gras, beef stew, lamb stew (see the can next to the horse?), and many others.  This definitely caught me off guard when I saw it shortly after we arrived.  Since then I have also seen horse meat on menus.

So, can any of you find horseflesh in your grocery?

до свидания!

Glad I Brought: My Backpack

5 May

This is the first post in the “Glad I Brought” category which will highlight items that I brought from the States when we moved that have proved to be useful here. There will be two companion categories, as well: “Sorry I Brought” and “Wish I Brought.” I’m not sure if anyone who is preparing for a move will read this, but these are bits of information that I would have liked to have known when packing.

During our pre-move research, Ben and I learned that backpacks are not that common here. One of the major reasons is that they have pockets on your back, making it difficult for you to keep an eye on them while riding on a crowded metro car. I considered replacing my Jansport with something larger and more luggage-like if it was only going to be used for travel, but ultimately decided to stick with what I had.

This has turned out to be a great decision. While I rarely take my backpack with me when I commute to/from work, I frequently use it for grocery shopping. Even if we go to the store multiple times in a week, sometimes it is nice to pick up many things in one trip. We don’t have a car to load up, so we have to carry everything that we purchase from the store. It’s only a ten minute walk, but on the days when we buy a few cartons of milk and beer, the weight can add up quickly. I keep a crocheted shopping bag and old plastic bags inside my backpack, as well, so we can easily distribute the items.

I do think it is safer to avoid carrying anything important in a backpack, especially on the metro, but I would highly recommend having one here.

до свидания!


20 Apr

Yesterday, I was carded.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate since we do not have ID cards, but this was the first time I had to show proof of age in Russia. I pretty much thought that if you were old enough to make your way to the grocery store and had money you were welcome to buy whatever you wanted.

As the cashier finished with the customer in front of me and put her hand on the embarrassingly large, cheap bottle of beer at the front of my groceries, I could tell she was about to say something to me and it wasn’t to ask if I needed a bag. My mind immediately started to run through all of the possible scenarios:

  • Is she going to tell me the lane is now closed?
  • Did the computer suddenly break?
  • Is she going to tell me they do not sell beer on April 19th when it happens to fall on a Thursday?

I would not have been able to understand her if this was the case, but any of these would have been less surprising than “паспорт,” which sounds the same in Russian and English: passport. I’m not convinced that she actually bothered to figure out what my age was when I pulled out a U.S. passport, but we went through the motions anyway.

I was extremely relieved that it was something simple enough to take care of without too many hand gestures and confused looks. The grocery store is one of my “safe places.” It is a Russian environment that I can navigate well without speaking the language. It is very unsettling when there is a change to the routine such as when a register has a broken display, so I don’t know how much the total is, or the time when the cashier insisted that I pay for half my groceries before he would ring up the second half.

On the positive side, I have reached the age where it make me feel good when someone thinks I am younger than I actually am, so that was nice.

до свидания!